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GFCIs: What are Those Buttons on my Electrical Outlet?

GFCIs: What are Those Buttons on my Electrical Outlet?
May 13, 2014 Valerie Griffiths


GFCI stands for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter, located in your electrical outlet to protect you from shock, and they actually save lives. GFCIs monitor the electrical current flowing within your outlets, and are created to sense imbalances. If there’s danger with the electrical flow, the GCFI will quickly trip the circuit and cut the electricity to prevent harm to you.

GFCIs can interrupt the current in as little as 1/40 of a second! They prevent you from being the path that electricity takes between your power source and the ground.

You’ve probably noticed there are a couple small buttons on the GFCI outlets in your home. Take a closer look – it’s important to familiarize yourself so you can test the outlets about once a month. GFCIs are good for about 10 years, and can also be damaged by power surges, so it’s also a good idea to test them out after major storms.

About 10 percent of GFCIs don’t work because of damage, installation problems or other issues. What good is having them in place if they are faulty?

Looking at your GFCI outlet, you’ll notice it has a “Test” and a “Reset” button. The Reset button is red on many devices, which makes it stand out, and easier to remember (both start with “R”). The buttons will also be marked.

Here’s how to use the buttons on your outlets to test your GFCIs:

  • Plug something into the GFCI outlet
  • Turn it on
  • Push the “Test” button
  • The device should go off automatically
  • Push the “Reset” button
  • The device should turn back on

If your GFCI outlets are failing, or you don’t have GFCI outlets at all, give your local electrician a call. They can put your mind at ease and help make your home safer by making necessary updates.